I should have written this last night, but I was, like you, preoccupied by the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, who took what should have been a routine meeting to discuss the election, and then a unanimous vote to certify it, turned into an hours-long shitshow.
It’s pretty clear what their game is: Yell CHEATERS CHEATERS FRAUD FRAUD FRAUD until they run out the clock. It’s maddening, but this is what the GOP has been reduced to by propaganda and insanity. It’s a really dark time. They’re knocking out an essential support post of democracy, i.e. faith in fair elections. Once lost, it won’t be easily restored.
I wrote a column today, but think I won’t submit it to my editor; it just feels like too much. Should I paste it here instead? OK, here you go:
There is a phrase in politics to describe people who are loyal to the cause, who can be counted on to spread propaganda, parrot party lines and talking points and otherwise yay-team through every election cycle without requiring too much care and feeding: Useful idiots.
Some say the phrase originated with Vladimir Lenin, although that’s unsubstantiated. I thought of it Tuesday night, watching the slow-motion disaster of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers take down my fellow Grosse Pointe Woods resident, Monica Palmer. A mudslide of outrage gathered in the moments following her vote, and that of her fellow Republican on the board, Bill Hartmann, to not certify the county election, as canvassers nearly always do. The vote put the board in deadlock and for a few hours threatened the wrapup of the November election.
Their concern is that nearly three-quarters of Wayne County precincts were “out of balance,” i.e., that the voters recorded did not match the votes cast. The same problem was discovered in the August primary, and they asked Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to do something about it.
Early Tuesday morning, GOP consultant Stu Sandler tweeted disapprovingly that Benson had failed to do so. To continue the mudslide metaphor, this was a rumble from higher up the mountain, in the midst of a drenching rainstorm. If this was a movie, the birds would have all taken off from their perches, and deer and rabbits would have bounded away. Palmer and Hartmann marched on, and when, hours later, they used these imbalances as part of the justification to vote against certification, the debris began to tumble down the mountain.
As most people know, the vote was reversed after a few hours of unrelenting outrage, delivered by Zoom to the board (which could only have made it that much worse). But almost as soon as the first vote was taken, Michigan GOP chair Laura Cox issued a press release she’d obviously had ready to go, suggesting the vote was expected.
It’s hard to know what the play was here. Every element of it seemed to be so ham-fisted, so clueless, so…Trumpian, it’s hard to get your head around. The fact the two GOP board members were white and suburban, the two Dems Black Detroiters. The way Palmer said she’d certify the non-Detroit parts of Wayne County, even though many of those suburban communities had similar problems, but not Detroit. The way Palmer’s husband, Richard Shetler, immediately posted on his own Facebook news of the board’s vote, adding, “Huge win for #realDonaldTrump!” (He has since deleted it.)
All I could think was, Girl, Stu Sandler and Laura Cox loaded you into a cannon and fired you into the sun. Do you see that now?
Because it was Palmer and Hartmann, and not Sandler and Cox, who were singled out for punishment, including at least three outraged op-ed pieces published Wednesday by respected writers, with probably more in the works. The social media was far ruder, and Palmer, who physically resembles something of an ur-Karen, took the worst of it, because women always do. She was repeatedly called a racist, a vote-grabber, a disenfranchiser, one who would strip the hard-won power of the ballot from a city she doesn’t live in, and a racist a few hundred more times, and over what? One-half of one percent of the total votes cast in the city of Detroit, for errors that anyone who has worked an election knows are commonplace and entirely forgivable.
I suspect she’ll learn soon that charges of racism will follow her for a while – weeks, months, maybe years. She’s already facing an ethics complaint in connection with her activism in the Grosse Pointe school board race. Her husband has been rumored for years to have his eye on the mayor’s seat in the Woods. Hard to win votes door-knocking in an increasingly diverse suburb, once your face has been plastered on national newscasts as the smiling white face of attempted Black voter disenfranchisement, and in service to a soundly defeated president, as well.
I asked someone with far more experience in Wayne County politics what his assessment of this debacle was. “Amateurs trying to play in the big leagues,” he sniffed. Lenin, it is said, had his own description.
And that’s it for me today. Let’s hope the week improves, OK?